Grow, Go and Thrive: A Parent’s Guide
It can be difficult to get your child to eat anything at times, not just healthy foods. It can be frustrating as a parent to have to deal with this. On one hand you are worried that your child isn’t eating so the temptation is there to give them anything they will eat. This includes cookies, chips, and fries and pouring ketchup on everything so they will eat it what’s buried underneath. The trouble with giving children junk food is it fills them up so they don’t have room to eat more nutrient rich foods. Sugar, food colorings and unhealthy fats are not going to help your child nutritionally, may lead to dental cavities and may aggravate conditions such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), hyperactivity (ADHD), anxiety, eczema, and food sensitivities or allergies.
It’s important your child gets all the nutrients he/she needs in order to grow, go and thrive. You have to give them the needed proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals to make all the necessary reactions in the body function well. These nutrients function in the body to build muscle, feed the brain, make antibodies, make enzymes (eg: digestive enzymes), and make energy to name a few.
Protein: Helps build muscle, makes antibodies to help us fight colds and illness and enzymes to help us digest our food:
Requirements by age:
- 1.03 grams/kg for 5 and 6 year olds
- 1.00 grams /kg for children 7 to 10 years
- 0.98 grams /kg for boys 11 and 12 years
- 0.94 grams /kg for girls 11 and 12 years
Fat: Children need 20-25 % of their calories to come from fatty acids. Good fats such as those found in avocados, and essential fatty acids (EFA’s) from fish oils, flax seeds and oils and fresh raw nuts and seeds are healthy choices that will support your child’s growth and development (supports brain development and healthy cell membranes etc…unlike those from fast and junk foods which can harm the body).
Carbohydrates: These are basically sugar molecules linked together in varying lengths. They help give us energy and feed the brain to name a few functions.
- Refined/simple carbohydrates (processed grains like: pasta, white rice, white bread/flour and all refined sugars like: candy, white sugar and corn syrup) they get into the blood stream very quickly and can throw off the blood sugar (this can lead to hyperactivity and mood swings as well as fatigue). They are utilized in the body as sugar molecules and if they are not needed or are in excess they are stored as fat.
- Complex carbohydrates are starches and sugars that are made up of many linked molecules as well as fiber. These are the best form of carbohydrates and are found in whole grains (eg: brown rice, quinoa, vegetables, legumes/beans and fresh fruits). Complex carbohydrates generally get into the system a lot more slowly than refined carbohydrates due to the fiber content and are more stabilizing to the blood sugar. This gives the body more time to utilize the carbohydrate, although if in excess and not needed it will also be stored in the body.
The daily maximum recommendation for added/free sugar in the diet should be no more than 5% of total energy intake. This is translates as:
4-6 years old 19 g or 5 tsp*
7-10 years old 24 g or 6 tsp*
11 years and older 30 g or 7 tsp*
*Note: sugar that occurs naturally in fresh fruits and vegetables and milk is not counted in this total and is not limited the same way as added/free sugar. Free sugar includes all sugars added to foods, and that found in honey, various syrups and in juices.
Vitamins and minerals: Help make reactions go in the body and build strong bones and teeth
Some nutrients in the body need to be in a form that works. Vitamins are often what is needed to get the nutrient active so it can do its job (eg: Vitamin B5 is used to form a substance called ATP which is a reaction that gives us energy, without it this reaction doesn’t happen in the body so we may end up really tired). Some vitamins can be made in the body but most have to be taken in through our foods.
One of the roles minerals have is to keep our bones and teeth healthy and strong.
What’s a parent to do to keep their kids eating and staying healthy?
School is starting soon and there will be lunches - half eaten - brought back home. Trading, that nice crisp apple you packed them, at school for a friend’s cookie that is beyond your control. Managing this will take some education on the part of the child as to what and why they should eat healthy. What you do have control over is what you feed your child at home and what you do pack in their lunch. Here are some suggestions:
- Cut food into bite size pieces. Kids prefer to have small chunks of food and to have foods with dips. Make the food fun to eat so they enjoy their meals as well as get some nutrition out of it. Example: Cut up some apple slices instead of giving them a whole apple.
- Make them some hummus (use a recipe that includes tahini for your hummus to give your kids a bit of calcium) and give plain baked brown rice crackers, or some cut up pieces of carrot, red pepper, broccoli, zucchini or cucumber (etc.) for dipping.
- Avocados are often a hit with kids and high in protein and good fats…try making your own guacamole and serve with veggies or baked rice crackers. Try putting out a plate of cut up raw veggies and some hummus or guacamole. Even those who normally don’t head for veggies as a snack will often start eating them if it is frequently put out in front of them as a snack.
- Skip the freezies and ice-cream and make popsicles from fruit juice (real fruit juice not fruit punch or fruit flavored beverages), or by pureeing the fruit up (with a bit of water if necessary) and pouring it into popsicle molds.
Puree up a frozen banana, frozen melon or other frozen fruit and serve as an ice-cream substitute. Add some nuts or seeds to make it interesting.Make a fruit smoothie or protein shake with some fresh fruit (berries, half a banana and/or a piece of avocado etc), EFAs (eg: flax oil, or fresh ground flax seeds, and/or hemp seeds), and some yogurt (unsweetened), you can use a non dairy milk or diluted un-clarified juice as a base if desired, to give them a healthy “milkshake” that is loaded with nutrients. If it needs a bit of sweetening you can add a few dates chopped and blended up or a small amount of honey (a little goes a long way).
- Instead of your standard peanut butter (often loaded with sugar), give them almond butter, on a brown rice cake or rye crisp, or on a slice of apple.
- Commercial cereals and granola is often loaded with sugar, but it is very easy to make and you can substitute the sweetener with pure apple juice to create a low sugar cereal that can be used as a healthy snack as well. Check the health food stores for a low sugar or fruit sweetened version if you are not into making your own granola. You can also get various cereals that have a mix of whole grains in them (such as spelt, millet, buckwheat, kamut, and oats) look for them and use them instead of fruit loops captain crunch and cocoa puffs.
- Tofu chunks that have been baked till browned with a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil and a hint of basil (put all in a container, shake, lay out on a greased or parchment covered cookie sheet and bake at 350-400 F for 20-25 minutes), and then cooled make a high protein snack (store in the fridge), that can be eaten alone or tossed in salads or stews
- Instead of pop, or Kool-Aid try chilled fruit or herbal teas (Wild berry zinger is one of my children’s favorites).
The children are our future, feeding them well to allow development of healthy minds and bodies, getting them outside and involved in exercise and creativity is in everyone’s interest for a healthier happier nation.
- Marz, R, Medical Nutrition from Marz 2nd edition. Portland, Oregon; Omni-Press 1997: 22, 56-58, 175-177
- National Health Service – England, How does sugar in our diet affect our health?
- Zand, J, Walton, R, and Rountree, B, Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child. Garden City Park, New York; Avery Publishing Group 1994: 48-53
- WHO guideline: sugars intake for adults and children:
"Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud" -- Maya Angelou
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